'Fame,' 'Surrogates' eye boxoffice win

Openers vie with holdover 'Cloudy' for the top spot

The Lion will try to get its distribution roar back this weekend, but its female-targeting musical "Fame" will have to fend off a couple other wannabe kings of the boxoffice jungle.

Disney sends out the sci-fi thriller "Surrogates," and Sony expects a solid soph session for last weekend's No. 1 pic, the 3D animated "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs." All three pics appear certain to ring up at least midteen millions through Sunday while also having the potential to break from the pack to top the weekend rankings.

MGM will split worldwide coin from "Fame" evenly with Lakeshore Entertainment, which co-produced the remake of MGM's 1980 adaptation of the "Fame" stage musical about a performing-arts high school. Directed by Alan Parker, the first pic grossed $21 million domestically; TV director Kevin Tancharoen helmed the remake.

"Fame" totes an $18 million negative cost, which already has been recouped through foreign presales, execs said.

Struggling with internal finance issues for much of the past year, MGM hasn't had a theatrical release since unspooling the United Artists-produced drama "Valkyrie" in December. MGM distribution boss Erik Lomis said he's confident that "Fame" can rally core support this weekend, despite the recently somnolent fall marketplace.

"If you give people what they want to see, they're going to come out -- no matter time of year it is," he said.

Rated PG, "Fame" is expected to attracted a lot of moms with younger daughters in tow.

"Surrogates" stars Bruce Willis and Radha Mitchell in a futuristic tale about robots that live their owners' daily lives while the humans cocoon at home. The PG-13 pic is expected to draw its chief support from adult couples.

"There hasn't been a film like 'Surrogates' in the market lately," Disney distribution president Chuck Viane said. "It's the first movie for some time to which husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend go together. It's not just a boys-with-toys movie."

Elsewhere, Overture unspools the Dennis Quaid starrer "Pandorum," a modestly budgeted sci-fi pic expected to open in the upper single-digit millions. The mini-major, which has four pics set to unspool during the next six weeks, also bows Michael Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story" Friday in four theaters in Los Angeles and New York.

Also figuring among the frame's key limited openers is "Coco Before Chanel," an Audrey Tautou starrer from Sony Pictures Classics that unspools in five locations in L.A. and New York.

On an industrywide basis, the weekend will be compared with a $101 million session from last year topped by Paramount's $29.2 million bow of DreamWorks-produced actioner "Eagle Eye."

Industry boxoffice has bested its year-earlier comparisons five of the six past frames, despite the normal seasonal lull in attendance levels since Labor Day. Year to date, boxoffice is up 4.9%, at $7.48 billion.